Sensitive research data bootcamp: Introduction
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Image: Chris Booth Anonymous Witness
This online tutorial is appropriate for all members of the University who are working with sensitive data. The term 'sensitive data' is used to refer to data relating to people, rare or endangered animal or plant species, data generated or used under a restrictive commercial research funding agreement, and any data likely to have significant negative public impact if released.
This tutorial will be relevant whether or not your research is funded by an external sponsor.
The aim is to enable you to understand more about the issues surrounding the handling and sharing of sensitive data in order to meet the expectations of funders and publishers, whilst still adhering to legislative requirements and addressing participant concerns.
The tutorial includes several questions and the answer to each question will be revealed when you make your selection. These are designed to reinforce your understanding. Your use of the tutorial and your responses to the questions are not recorded.
This resource draws upon guidance developed by the Australian National Data Service for the online document Sensitive Data: Publishing and Sharing.
This tutorial offers an elementary introduction to the key facets of sensitive research data. It should take you about 30 minutes to complete.
Sensitive research data carries many more issues and complications than other types of research data. The way it is handled throughout a project and its suitability for sharing can be complex issues to address. Research data deemed to be sensitive has often been excluded from data publication. Reasons have included the belief that publishing such data was not ethical, was prohibited by the Data Protection Act or was just too difficult to do safely. This has meant that large amounts of potentially valuable data have been unavailable for further analysis.
This situation has changed somewhat thanks to a greater understanding of methods to ‘de-sensitise’ and to control access to this type of data. In order to safely share data, early planning is required. Plans to modify sensitive data into a form suitable for publication should form part of the wider ethical planning process. Data publication plans should certainly be in place before any new data is collected.
This tutorial will guide you through some of the issues associated with handling sensitive research data and provide information on methods to enable secure data sharing.